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The Social Diary ~
The Ezine Covering the World of High Society ..& more
the Social Diary Hawai'i & Water Sports Columnist Sonja
Column #3, August 1st, 2006
Rich and sensuous, Bali engulfs the full
range of senses. The smells and colors, rich batiks and silks,
exotic landscapes, and sumptuous foods mingle with episodes of
persistent vendors, mangy Bali dogs, and hoards of motorbikes,
providing little 'white space'. It's a place heavy with decadence,
yet strikingly fragile.
Whether you like Bali is mostly up to your
own attitude, some judicious choices, and the rest is up to fate.
Here is an example. I rode the local bus, called a Bemo, because
I had time and curiosity; but it's not the usual choice of tourists
because it is generally slow, hot and uncomfortable. Transportation
is cheap enough otherwise but somehow I liked the idea of the
In the midst of bustling Denpasar, I boarded
a bus of curious co-passengers, some with crates of vegetables,
some with chickens, and most were heavily burdened by whatever
their livelihood demanded of them. I announced that I was going
to a certain place in Kuta, which required a transfer or two.
I paid my 500 rupiah (about 50 cents) and jostled along in the
small bus that can hold 6 comfortably but generally holds 15.
They know how to make themselves small.
I had to change bus, which required a 45
minute wait in the hot sun, in a smoke-filled bus with interesting
other smells…but at least no pigs this time. A kind-faced
young man sitting in the back, also curious about me, offered
up a cigarette. I choked back my desire to lecture about the health
risks and thanked him for his kind gesture. He spoke better English
The driver, a bleached orange haired young
man, full of tattoos, went about collecting fares. I pulled out
the standard 500 bill and handed it over. He looked at me and
said; "20,000". I stared in disbelief. As calmly as
I could, I replied: "No, it's 500" and handed him my
fare. He insisted, and then unexpectedly the kind faced young
man in the back pulled out 15,000 to pay mine. Everyone on the
bus looked at him, then looked at me, and waited for a reaction.
I said "that's wrong", but pulled 30,000 out to give
to him instead of the driver, preferring to pay him back for his
kindness. He would have none of it.
As we got closer to Kuta, the bus driver motioned for me that
it's time to get off. I looked around, saw nothing familiar, but
moved toward the exit. As soon as I got up to get off, the kind
young man behind me woke up from half-dozing and informed me;
"no, this is not where you said you wanted to go--it is a
bit further. I will show you." I gratefully sat back down,
and about 3 miles later, he got off with me and decided to walk
me to my destination. I asked him if he wanted to stop for lunch
or a cold drink. He refused. What an angel, I can still see his
face in my mind's eye.
Sure, I can understand the bus driver wanting to ream me. It isn't
fair that we tourists have so much money, and can frolic around
in their country and buy whatever we want. But I don't understand
the meanness of telling me to get off at the wrong spot. Yet the
young man's kind actions more than made up for it. Now there is
some good karma.
You can easily see the good, bad, beautiful
and ugly, in the same moment. The intense beauty in everything
from the simplest carved bowl to the grandest temple hits you
even more in retrospect. Everything from hand-carved furniture
to intricately woven cloths, sculpted walls and beautifully landscaped
gardens, gives a sense that great pride and care is taken for
every detail. At the same time, one is being bombarded by vendors
selling massages, manicures/pedicures, hair braiding, sarongs
or transport; or anything that might make a few rupee…some
just resort to begging, especially the little ones with the sad
eyes. Frustrated vendors pull you into their shops, as if making
you look obliges you to buy something, yet there are always sweet-faced
people who just smile graciously. Lots of experiences are there
to be had, for sure; from surfing to shopping, hiking up volcanoes,
watching fire dances, visiting temples, and long walks in the
rice paddies (one of the respites from the noise of dogs and motorbikes).
I later realized that surfing would have
been a better experience by boat trip, or a visit to a neighbor
island. I started off in Kuta; the Waikiki of Bali but worse,
--because it was really easy to find a good quality board there…with
more selection than in Hawaii. Surf was the god of the city--and
indeed, a few foreigners seemed to have quit life elsewhere just
to live there and surf. The beach break was consistent but crowded,
and this was where most people come to learn, which means trouble.
Down the coast toward Uluwatu, there are
more breaks: Impossibles, Bingin, Balangan and Padang Pagang.
I ended up staying at Dreamland because it sounded so good. There
were mostly European and Australians along with a few hot-shot
Indonesians who rip more than Hawaiians. I got run over by some
guy --so I put my hands over my head to come up (to make sure
no board hits me in the head) and I grabbed something soft and
squishy. He asked (in a high pitched voice)--are you all right?
Well, that's what he gets for running me over. Dreamland, right…
By then it was time for a break to the
hills. I bussed it to Ubud--the artsy city; a place known for
yoga and reflection. It was a welcome respite. There I met and
joined some young "kids" (in their 20's) to trek up
Mt. Batur volcano. We got up at 1:30am (--rather, never actually
went to sleep) to drive for 1.5 hours and then hike for 2.5 hours
to reach the summit of Mt. Batur, just in time to witness the
sun rising over Mt. Agung. Yes, it was worth the sleep-deprived
hike on an empty stomach to view that magnificent sunrise. The
monkeys were up for it too. Rather, they were up for the potential
handouts as the guides fed us hot banana sandwiches and boiled
eggs. Even the monkeys in Bali were good bargainers. Sometimes
they would steal someone's hat or sunglasses and barter for a
bunch of bananas.
For me, the highlight of the trip was meeting
new friends while riding the bemo (I never gave up on it) on my
way to Ubud. They too were curious about me and why I was there.
Since it was a rather long bus ride, we had time to talk and learn
a few things about each other. Wita is a fashion designer, and
her husband is an engineer but is now working as a miller. Wita
spoke excellent English, though her husband was rather shy but
understood everything. By the end of the bus ride, they had invited
me to his brother's wedding in a village about 30 minutes away.
At the appointed time two days later, they sent someone on a motorbike
to pick me up.
Imagine the silks, gold, offerings, and
sounds of the chanting, bells clanging, and the smell of incense.
The rituals lasted 4 hours. I was very aware that I was the only
tourist there, so I hoped I didn't offend anyone. I found myself
wishing I had something more decent to wear, but I did my grunge
travel thing with a backpack and very few clothes. I had forgotten
to wear a sash, which needs to be worn to enter the temple, but
Wita was able to get one for me, without embarrassing me.
I was treated to an assortment of sweets,
with mochi rice, banana and coconut and date sugar, soy nuts,
then a sumptuous dinner -- and the hostesses kept coming around
to make sure plates were loaded with delicacies. My new friend
Wita patiently explained the rituals, what the prayers were about,
and how the elders were chanting about their lineage--connecting
the past with the future. The little girl from Timor wanted so
badly to connect with me but we could only smile. She produced
every word she knew in English. She had been learning it for 5
months so far.
What a gorgeous sight, all the beautiful
women in their gold and silk sarongs, and men handsomely clad,
and the bride and groom were stunning beyond belief! I felt truly
blessed, my head full of images, warm feelings, and privy to a
brief glimpse into another culture.
pictured here - Bali Canoe.
All photos this page are the photo credit and copyright of Sonja
Evensen, all rights reserved.
pictured here - Ketchak
pictured here - Batur Sunrise.
pictured here - Monkey in
pictured here - Batur Scenery.
pictured here - Tiers of
pictured here - Monkey Forest
pictured here - Wedding
pictured here - Wedding.
pictured here - Wedding.
pictured here - Dreamland.
pictured here - Dreamland.
pictured here - Denpasar
pictured here - Stone Carving
pictured here - Rich Silk.
pictured here - Man offering
pictured here - Sonja and
little friend from Timor
pictured here - Wedding
pictured here - Wife and
on Discovery Channel's ... Shark Week - 'Dangerous
Jobs That Bite Harder!'
Sonja Evensen is an ex-pro windsurfer who moved to Hawai'i
from Norway over 25 years ago. She competed professionally for
a little more than a decade. Currently she divides her time between
windsurfing, surfing, and kitesurfing, not necessarily in that
order. Besides her love of the water sports lifestyle, Sonja works
as a program evaluation specialist for Pacific Resources for Education
and Learning ( www.prel.org
), a job that takes her traveling throughout
Micronesia and good surf spots.
to New this Week.........Sonja
** photos, video and writing on this site are the
of the author, The Social Diary, San Diego Social Diary, margomargo.com
and Margo Schwab.
reproduction of any part or parts is allowed without written permission
by Margo Schwab